Spokane Journal of Business

Lee & Hayes sees growth in life science

Spokane-based firm has hired specialists, hopes to have 15 attorneys in group within five years

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Lee & Hayes sees growth in life science
-—Staff photo by Mike McLean
Shaun Cross, right, CEO of Spokane-based Lee & Hayes PLLC, helped launch the firm's new life science practice group, and patent attorney Chris Rogers, left, will oversee the group here.

Lee & Hayes PLLC, a Spokane-based law firm that focuses on intellectual property law, says its relatively new life-sciences group could become a significant catalyst for future growth.

The group, which Lee & Hayes began putting together last fall, will serve clients in the biotechnology industry that are seeking patents for innovations in fields such as medicine, clean energy, pharmaceuticals, and health care, says Shaun Cross, the firm's CEO.

"Life science is a huge area and was something we had our eyes on and thought it could be a huge expansion for us in the future," Cross says.

Cross says the life science group, which currently includes just two highly specialized attorneys, will advise clients on their "portfolios" of intellectual property, help them file for patents, counsel them on patent infringement issues, and provide other services related to intellectual property protection.

"It really just depends; there is no one project that is the same," as another project, he says. "It depends on the company's size, the innovation, and the cycle of the products they are seeking protection for."

Lee & Hayes took its first step in creating the group last September, when it hired patent attorney Christopher Rogers to work out of its Spokane office and serve as co-leader of the group. Rogers has more than 20 years of experience in patent law and has worked with several international pharmaceutical companies, as well as in the areas of nanotechnology, biofuel, and chemical engineering, Cross says.

The firm hired the new group's other co-leader in June. She is Connie Wong, whose expertise is in biotechnology and who is in Lee & Hayes' Seattle office, he says.

"It was a really exciting opportunity for me," Wong says. "The formation of the life-science group at Lee & Hayes allows us to bring clients to the firm who need expertise in that area. We are gaining a lot of momentum."

Wong came to Lee & Hayes from New York City, where she worked at a 1,000-plus firm, Ropes & Gray LLP. She has a bachelor's degree in human physiology, a doctorate in immunology, and a law degree, Cross says. Wong also has experience working as a research scientist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, of New York, studying cancer-cell development, he says.

Cross says hiring Wong and Rogers was critical to establishing a life-sciences group. "It's a highly specialized area of law, and if you look at their backgrounds, we are really excited," he says.

He says Wong and Rogers are the first two attorneys at Lee & Hayes who will focus only on work in the life sciences arena, though other patent attorneys at the firm will provide assistance in that field as needed.

Including Rogers and Wong, Lee & Hayes now has 10 patent attorneys, who have backgrounds in chemistry, biology, and chemical engineering, Cross says. Six of them work at the Spokane office, the firm's headquarters, while three are based in the firm's Seattle office and one is located in its office in Austin, Texas, he says.

Cross says the firm currently is looking for another attorney with a doctoral degree in an area of life sciences to add to the practice group. He says the firm plans to hire more attorneys for the practice group as its client base grows, and ideally would like to see the group grow to 15 attorneys within five years, with Wong and Rogers still leading it.

Because of the complexity of the work, Cross says it's important that the attorneys in the group have almost the same level of scientific knowledge as the clients they serve.

Cross, who joined Lee & Hayes as its CEO in 2008, says he helped spearhead the life-science practice group when the firm was looking at areas of potential growth beginning that fall.

"Right now, relative to what we are doing in computer science and software, the life-science group is starting off as a fairly small percentage of our overall amount of work that we do in intellectual property," Cross says. "But we see this as a significant area for growth in the future."

Through the new group, he says, the firm hopes to reach all sizes of companies, from startups to national and global corporations.

"We represent a lot of individuals with great ideas who need protection," Cross says. "We are not limiting our representation to large regional or national companies."

Currently, among Lee & Hayes' clients, he says, are Boeing, GE, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, and Texas Instruments. It has clients as far away as Taiwan and Beijing, and as close as Hollister-Stier Laboratories LLC and Signature Genomics here, Cross says, adding that it also does work for universities, nonprofits, and small technology startups here.

Rogers says the firm hopes to get some synergy from the Spokane area's emerging health-sciences sector, and especially from the four-year medical school proposed at the Riverpoint Campus.

"The clients we are looking at down the line are growing in this region," Rogers says. "We are situated very well to service and handle those emerging industries."

Lee & Hayes has other practice groups built around specific clients, including groups in corporate law, tax law, and litigation, although the firm focuses on intellectual property law, Cross says.

In its earlier days, Lee & Hayes represented Microsoft Corp., which helped establish the firm as a provider of patent work in computers, software, and electrical engineering, Cross says. Today, the firm still works with clients in those sectors, he says.

Lee & Hayes employs 27 attorneys and 51 employees overall in its Spokane office. At its three offices combined, the firm has 50 attorneys and agents, with a firm-wide employment of about 85 people, Cross says. It also has five attorneys based in Asia, he says.

Lee & Hayes' Spokane office is in the Bank of America Financial Center, at 601 W. Riverside, in about 28,000 square feet of office space on the 13th and 14th floors.

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